The Kindness / Gratitude Connection

Five Actions Gratitude- horizontal
 
A friend of mine recently commented that his business and professional relationships were transactional, not relational.  In describing them, he meant that while they were congenial, the motivation for the relationship was quid-pro-quo.  

I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine, and will only scratch yours if you scratch mine.

A transaction-based relationship exists as a function of a reciprocal economic exchange. It is a sophisticated form of negotiated shared mutual self-interest. It's nothing personal. Just an agreement between two or more people, or the culture that exists in an organization or community.

In a transactional culture, the institutional relationship centers within a game of power, influence and control. The reward in such a relationship is the validation of self worth by the organization.

Communities, where a transaction-based culture exists, is oriented around the status of the influential and prominent, and the line between those who are and are not is clearly maintained as a part of the culture.

As my friend shared his experience with me, the context reminded me of the organizational leaders whom I interviewed in the mid-1990s. In those interviews, I asked,"If you were to lose everything this afternoon, who would stand with you?"  Most answered with silence. One or two offered, "My mother?" None said their business partners, their friends, their spouse or children.

One reason the psychic effects of the recession have been so severe is that self-worth for so many business and professional people is rooted in this transactional institutional relationship. In effect,

"I am my position, title, job responsibilities and compensation package."

Displaced from this organizational setting after years of service, cast adrift into a sea of other unemployed professionals, it quickly becomes apparent that these transactional relationships cannot sustain us through life's disruptive transitions.

Like the leaders I interviewed, many people are finding that their confidence in the support and security of their institution is disintegrating. As accomplished professionals, who successfully maneuvered the challenges of operating within a transactional business environment, they now realize that they are on-their-own to chart their future course in an unknown landscape where organizational connection matters less and less, and human connection everything.

The Gratitude Response

For almost three years now, I have been on a journey of discovery related to the practice of gratitude. It all started with my reponse - Say Thanks Every Day - to Daniel Pink's Johnny Bunko 7th Lesson contest. My 7th lesson quickly became The Five Actions of Gratitude, and my thinking on gratitude most fully expressed in my 2010 Weekly Leader series, The Stewardship of Gratitude

As with most of my projects, questions are the driver of discovery.

FiveActionsOfGratitude

At first, I wanted to understand gratitude, and how it can build stronger relationships and strengthen organizations. 

Then, I began to ask a question that got behind my original one.

When I am grateful to someone, to what am I responding?

After considerable of reflection, I finally concluded that it was human kindness.

By kindness, I mean acts that represent a certain kind of attitude and behavior that we have about people and our relationships with them.  I'm not just talking about family relationships, or close friends, but all our relationships, personal and professional.

Here's are some examples that inspire me to celebrate this human motivation.

A friend wrote me to tell about how she had been transferred to a different department within her company. While the change was good for her, it put her former boss and co-workers in a difficult position. Here's her description of what she did.

I told my ex-boss and current boss, that for my own conscience and personal conviction, I felt strongly wanting to help my ex-dept (esp my ex-bosses) as they were in very difficult times. I decided to take my few days of leave and go back to my ex-dept to coach and help them. Many, could not understand why I needed to go to this extent to help (by taking own leave) and jeopardizing my appraisal from my new dept by going the extra mile to help my ex-dept. I was not bothered because I knew what I was doing and I felt that loyalty, compassion and being there for my ex-bosses and colleagues were the most important things in life compared to how my new dept assessed me in my new appraisal.

My friend's former bosses and colleagues meant something to her. Her relationship to them was not a transactional relationship, but a professional relationship with a genuine depth of caring.

Another example that remains in my memory are the people I met in New Orleans and along the Mississippi Gulf Coast who had left the home communities, sold their homes or shut their utilities off, lock the doors and moved to contribute in the relief and recovery of the region following Hurricane Katrina. Six years later, some are still there making a difference as the region rebuilds.

I have the same respect for the hundreds, maybe thousands, of nameless people, who in the midst of the 9/11 destruction of the World Trade Center towers, the attack on The Pentagon and the bringing down of Flight 93 in rural Pennsylvania,  cared for people whom they did not know, yet were in need. Their acts of kindness and sacrifice are, for me, why we commemorate this day each year. They are a living reminder that not everyone bases their actions on a mutual economic exchange.

These examples, and many others, are for me the Kindness / Gratitude Connection.

Kindness

Adam Phillips and Barbara Taylor describe kindness, in their book On Kindness, this way.

"... life lived in instinctive sympathetic identification with the vulnerabilities and attractions of others."

Kindness is not the first attribute that we'd use to describe a business. Yet, it is one that we may identify as why we are loyal to one.

Kindness is an expression of empathy.  People who are kind and empathetic are able to see in other people the challenges they face and the potential that they have.  The empathy connection, like kindness, builds relationships of strength to overcome serious life challenges.

Kindness is a leadership capacity that transcends the formal structure of the organization. 

Leaders who can engage people with kindness and empathy are able to find resources of motivation and commitment that are non-existent in a transactional relationship.

Kindness in its fullness requires a level of personal maturity that enables us to look beyond our individual interests. In kindness, we can see the dignity, value and potential of other people.

Think of the many professional situations we encounter everyday. We walk into a room. There are a dozen or more people in there. What should our intention be?

If our intention is to be kind to each person, then we enter the room with the purpose of honoring them. To do so I must see that my presence in the room is not about me.  It is about the connection that can be made between me and another person, and of the room as a whole body of people.  My purpose is not to get something, but to contribute.

Does everyone in the room deserve this sort of treatment? Obviously not. But it isn't about treating people as they deserve. That is the transactional mindset. Rather, being kind in a business and professional context is about my acting in such a way that we all are able to achieve higher levels of impact that we could have.

Yes,

I am suggesting that the practice of kindness and gratitude is a strategy for strengthening organizations. And, that without it, a company is weaker, less able to manage change and adapt to their opportunities.

Yes,

I am saying that a transactional mindset is inherently unpredictable and organizationally divisive, and contributes to economic instability in organizations and the global economy.

Yes,

I am actually saying that leaders who only know how to work within a transactional model are weaker, and, their displays of control and ego are masks for fear and a sense of inadequacy.

Treating each person with respect, empathy and honor doesn't mean that we are simply nice to them. It is means that we listen and treat their ideas and their actions seriously. By treating them with honor, we are able to be constructively critical. Without honor, our criticism easily becomes self-serving and destructive.

With honor and kindness, we build understanding between us that elevates our mutual strategic thought processes. This is often what is missing in executive efforts to increase team communication and decision-making. It isn't about the analytical process, but about the relationship that builds understanding, unity and commitment.

A reason why so much of social networking, whether in person or online, is a waste of time is because its based on a transactional perspective. When we seek to be kind, to contribute to the welfare of others, to practice the Five Actions of Gratitude, then the social dynamic changes. 

As my understanding of Gratitude and, now, Kindness has grown, I'm also seeing how my best online relationships are mutual expressions of The Kindness / Gratitude Connection. 

The Power of Mutual Reciprocity

Genuine accountability in relationships requires openness, transparency, and a mutual willingness to adapt and change to make the relationship work. We share a mutual intention to submit to one another's critique and counsel.

When mutual accountability works, the relationship transcends the transaction and begins to move toward a relationship that reflects the kindness / gratitude connection

Kindness fosters giving. It opens up social settings to opportunities that do not exist except when relationships are healthy and vital.  Givers are the source of this openness. Philanthropy is an embodiment of the kindness of strangers giving to causes and institutions that matter to them. Their giving creates the strength that makes a society work.

For this reason, gratitude is more than a function of social etiquette to which my grandmother would earnestly approve.  Rather, It is a fundamental part of every human relationship that completes the act of kindness by giving back in gratitude.

In many ways, the kindness / gratitude connection is a type of love.  Here is the beginning of Trappist monk Thomas Merton's, No Man Is An Island.

"A happiness that is sought for ourselves alone can never be found: for a happiness that is diminished by being shared is not big enough to make us happy."

"There is a false and momentary happiness in self-satisfaction, but it always leads to sorrow because it narrows and deadens our spirit.  True happiness is found in unselfish love, a love which increases in proportion as it is shared.  There is no end to the sharing of love, and, therefore, the potential happiness of such love is without limit.  Infinite sharing is the law of God's inner life.  He has made the sharing of ourselves the law of our own being, so that it is in loving others that we best love ourselves.  In disinterested activity we best fulfill our own capacities to act and to be."

"Yet there can never be happiness in compulsion.  It is not enough for love to be shared: it must be shared freely.  That is to say it must be given, not merely taken.  Unselfish love that is poured out upon a selfish object does not bring perfect happiness: not because love requires a return or a reward for loving, but because it rests in the happiness of the beloved.  And if the one loved receives love selfishly, the lover is not satisfied.  He sees that his love has failed to make the beloved happy.  It has not awakened his capacity for unselfish love."

"Hence the paradox that unselfish love cannot rest perfectly except in a love that is perfectly reciprocated: because it knows that the only true peace is found in selfless love.  Selfless love consents to be loved selflessly for the sake of the beloved.  In so doing, it perfects itself."

"The gift of love is the gift of the power and the capacity to love, and, therefore, to give love with full effect is also to receive it.  So, love can only be kept by being given away, and it can only be given perfectly when it is also received."

The expression of kindness is analogous to the expression of love between people. Paraphrasing Merton, we could say. 

The gift of kindness is the gift of the power and the capacity to be kind, and, therefore, to give kindness with full effect is also to receive it.

The gift of gratitude is the gift of the power and the capacity to be grateful, and, therefore, to give gratitude with full effect is also to receive it.

The fulfillment of love for Merton isn't the expression of it. Rather, it is the mutual benefit that comes from mutual giving and receiving. This is what the Kindness / Gratitude Connection means.

My purpose is to show that gratitude is not just some nice thing that we do. Oh, isn't she nice. She sent me a thank you note. My point is to show that the expression of kindness and gratitude changes a professional relationship from a transactional one to an adaptive one..

When we act towards others with kindness, we open up possibilities in our relationship with them that would be more difficult to discover if my only interest was closing the deal. We become much more aware of the situations that we each have, and those that we share. As a result our communication level is deeper, and our willingness to help the other out is greater.

The Future is Kind

Everywhere I turn I see organizations and institutions failing because they think they can sustain the past into the future. The transaction-based professional relationship and institution are relics of a much more homogeneous, economically predictable time.  It is the model of the 20th century that worked.

The 21st century is vastly different. The organizational forms of the past are disintegrating, to the point that all that is left is the commitment and desire of people to sustain the place of their employment.

The future is going to be secured in relationships of mutuality, kindness, honor, empathy and gratitude. 

These relationships will transcend all the boundaries that we spent the 20th century seeking to overcome. Where they remain are places still committed to sustaining the past.

The beauty of the 21st century is that it is open to everyone because it is built upon our relationships with one another. It is not just an ethical perspective, but a strategic development one. Making the Kindness / Gratitude Connection a strategic focus on a business, the kind of relationship we need to manage rapid, accelerating global change can be realized. The real beauty of it is that it is not institutionalize, but personalized in each one of us.

If we want to be successful in every aspect of our lives in the future, then learn to be kind, giving, grateful and honoring of the people in your life.


The Two Levers of Culture

Organizational culture is an important driver of any business. 3891544806_a7b01c8a63_b But culture is often seen as some vague organizational presence, typically personalized in the senior leader or owner. Culture is much more. 

For example, take a person. Hair, skin color, gender, height, shape, family lineage, geographic location and many other facets of a person are the things that distinguish us. But our hair, or lack of it, does not define us a whole person. It is all these things and more. The whole of a person is very similar to what we think of as the culture of an organization or a town. 

The culture of an organization therefore is something whole and complete, always shifting and changing as the context and the people within the organization change. Changes that are happening on a global scale are requiring us to pay more attention to precisely what is the culture of our businesses.

The shift that is taking place in organizational cultures is not incremental, but transformational. The mechanistic culture of the Industrial Age, think Henry Ford, defined the culture of most businesses over the past century. Today a more organic culture based on human interaction is emerging.

Australian Futurist Ross Dawson sees this Transformation of Business being driven by the following developments.

Flexible organizational structures

Distributed innovation

Tapping talent

Dynamic strategy

Scalable relationships

Governance for transformation

What drives these drivers? People, and the changes that they bring to their work in organizations.

A New Kind of Culture

Zappos.com is known for being a unique place to work. Its organizational culture stands out as distinctive. It is one of many businesses that have figured out how to engage its employees so that they want to give their best to their work.

Read the latest edition of their culture book (free for the asking at Zapposinsights.com), and page after page are brief stories by employees of their love and commitment to Zappos. Is Zappos the answer to the question about what the culture of work will look like in the future? No more so than any other business is the answer for every other business.  Zappos does provide an indicator of the kind of cultural change that is possible.

In the 2010 Zappos Culture book, CEO Tony Hsieh explains the Zappos culture.

“For us, our #1 priority is company culture. Our belief is that if we get the culture right, most of the other stuff – like delivering great customer service, or building a long-term enduring brand and business – will happen naturally on its own. … So what is Zappos culture? To me, the Zappos culture embodies many different elements.  It’s about always looking for new ways to WOW everyone we come in contact with. It’s about building relationships where we treat each other like family. It’s about teamwork and having fun and not taking ourselves too seriously. It’s about growth, both personal and professional. It’s about achieving the impossible with fewer people. It’s about openness, taking risks, and not being afraid to make mistakes. But most of all, it’s about having faith that if we do the right thing, then in the long run we will succeed and build something great.”

Tony Hsieh understands what Daniel Pink, in his book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, describes. Pink sees that people today are not motivated to excellence in their life or work by fear of punishment or just by financial rewards. Instead three personal factors - autonomy, mastery and purpose – are the key motivators.

Two Levers of Culture

At a deeper level, organizational culture is a values structure, especially those focused on purpose and mission, and respect, trust, openness and mutual reciprocity.

We can describe this human centered system by identifying two levers. These levers provide energy and strength to the system. One is self-leadership. The other is the functioning of the organization as a Community of Leaders.

Self-Leadership

The old industrial model of leadership was built around the idea that leaders control and the rest follow. That worked when followers lacked education and training, and business systems were relatively simple and predictable. Today, nothing is simple, and the complexity of organizational systems is such that talent has become an important differentiator between businesses.  Talented people need development and the right culture to be able to reach their potential.

These changes also mean that each employee has greater responsibility for their work than ever before. That responsibility is carried out through their own personal initiative.

Personal initiative is the origin of all leadership. Without it, nothing begins or is sustained. In the past, this initiative came from a small, select group of people in positions of leadership. Now, leadership is less a role and more the way a person conducts themselves within the culture of the company.

Personal initiative is product of self-leadership. It comes from the individual him or herself. It is that expression of inner motivation that turns a person who is only there to do the job assigned into a person who is a creator and contributor to the developing success of the company.

Where does this drive for personal initiative that is leadership come from?

It begins with values. Not generic ones that appear on rest room walls with not so subtle reminders to do your best. Rather these values are personal ones that transcend the individual and form a basis for collaboration. These are the kind of values that are expressed by Zappos employee Darrin S. in the 2010 Zappos Culture book.

One of the best bits of advice I've ever received was, "Surround yourself with people that make you want to be your best self."

My Interpretation of "best self" is this:

- Purpose greater than one's own personal interests.

- Fear of stagnation

- Relentless quest for the truth in decision making.

- A thrill for the unknown when the right answer is difficult to determine.

- Trust in the effort of others.

- Genuine desire to watch others succeed.

Zappos has a high concentration of people with these values and the Zappos Culture is a product of these people.

People like Darren are self-motivated to lead from their individual place within the company's structure. They look for ways to contribute, to innovate, and to create an impact that matters.  Grow up a company filled with people like Darren and the company is transformed into a culture of committed contributors.

Community of Leaders

Two experiences inform my understanding of the phrase "community of leaders."

One was a project where issues that began at the lower level of the company's structure would get passed up the line until it reached the head of the business unit. Instead of the issue being a dispute between two people or the performance of one person, as the issue was passed on, it changed into being a dispute between the union and the company.  It was a culture problem. Managers and supervisors avoided taking responsibility because of a culture of mistrust.

The second experience was the tour of a local hospitals where we had the opportunity to meet and dialog with department heads and floor leaders. My opinion of the organization changed as I found middle-tier leaders who not only had a tactical and technical grasp of their specific area of responsibility, but also had a strategic grasp of the region's healthcare issues with an understanding of how the hospital was positioned to meet them.

A Community of Leaders is a way to describe an organizational culture where self-leadership is wide spread. It is more than just a collection of self-led people. It is an emergent culture where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The key change is relational and social.

As I describe above, a culture that avoids responsibility is not a culture where the relationships function well. Lack of respect and trust in any social system is sclerotic, creating an environment that is rigid, unresponsive and unable to adapt.

How many times have I been in a planning meeting with an organization and the group is pushing for greater accountability, not greater trust.  In effect, they are looking for scapegoats to blame poor performance on.  It is a symptom of a failing culture.  If people are not willing to take initiative, to build open, respectful relationships, then something is wrong. I know this is the norm in many, many organizations. Conduct anonymous surveys of employees, and you'll hear it. The social/ relational dimension of an organization is not a second level area of leadership, it is the connectional, the ligament, the glue of the system.

A Community of Leaders is an organization whose self-led members contribute through the leadership of their own personal initiative to build relationships of respect and trust. In order to see this, we have to think a bit differently about how an organization can be a community.

There is the formal structure of departments, business units and process. And then there is the informal structure of relationship. It is this latter structure that needs development in most organizations. It is developed by creating a culture of respect and trust. 

What can an executive leader of a company do to create a community of leadership culture?

First, YOU cannot create it. WE have to create it.

It cannot be controlled or mandated. It must be permitted to happen. There must be openness and freedom for people to take initiative to create the social environment that allows them to show up like Darren S. of Zappos to be their best every day. All you can do is support and facilitate, and most important join them as a co-participant.

Second, you have to understand what people want. Three Goals of Life-Work - Simple

 1. People want their lives and work to be Personally Meaningful In other words, there are ideas, values, a sense of purpose or personal calling that they want to express in the way they spend every day.  Work is personal, and becomes professional as it defines and guides their relationship to the company. The more a person’s core values are in synch with his or her work and aligned with the company’s mission, the more significant the workplace becomes as place to invest oneself in high endeavors and excellence in performance.

2. People want their lives and work to be Socially FulfillingThey want their relationships to be whole and healthy, for respect, trust and openness to be valued and practiced in the workplace. This is more than just about the functioning of a project team or a business unit. There is unfulfilled desire that informs the cynicism and fear that is prevalent in so many organizations.  It is a belief that better work results from relationships of trust and respect.

3. People also want their lives and work to Make a Difference that Matters This desire is more than just to being successful or having a fun.  People want to see the product of their effort at work creating a lasting benefit for their customers and clients.  The sense of accomplishment that comes when one’s mission or their company’s mission is fulfilled through their contributions is what I identify in people. To Make a Difference that Matters is to create change. 

Third, you have to be an example. If you are, then people will follow you. Deeds are much more important than words. If you are starting from square one, then let me suggest you take on developing the Five Actions of Gratitude as a discipline of relationship building within your company.

The Five Actions of Gratitude are five strategic actions that elevates the collaborative work as an organizational asset.

The Five Actions of Gratitude are:

Say Thanks in gratitude to those who make a difference that matters in your life and work.

Give Back in service to those who make a difference that matters.

Make Welcome in open hospitality, inviting people to take personal initiative to make a difference that matters

Honor Others in respect and recognition, as the foundation of healthy relationships.

Create Goodness through one’s own personal initiative to make a difference that matters in life and work.

What I have found is that the greatest change happens within us. The world's needs are not as insurmountable as our own fear and reticence to change.  It may be part ego, but what I find more often is that it is our lack of confidence in being able to succeed.

To take these three steps:

1. Letting go to let a community of leadership culture to develop,

2. Facilitating the development of a corporate culture which allows for people to find their life and work to be Personally Meaningful, Socially Fulfilling and To Make a Difference That Matters, and,

3. Making the Five Actions of Gratitude the basis of your personal and professional relationships,

will initiate a process of personal change that creates the opportunity for others to join you.  As a result a cultural change will take place that will release the unrealized potential that resides in every company. 

People are the levers of strength and change in organizations. Encourage their self-leadership and the result is a community of leaders. This is the future, possibly the only future that we have.

SelfLeadershipInLife-Work
Self-Leadership in Life and Work is available for download.


Honor and The Lost Art of Diplomacy

The killing of Osama bin Laden brought me back to a time thirty years ago when I passed by the Pakistani military base in Abbottabad near bin Laden's compound. Afghan man - Peshawar desert camp I was in Pakistan for the summer working with a refugee agency. We traveled all over northern Pakistan looking for small encampments of Afghan refugees who had fled their country during the Soviet invasion. 

This picture is of an Afghan man whose family was camped on a hot, desert plain between Peshawar and the famed Khyber Pass.  We took food, clothing and some tents to this small, very destitute camp of a few hundred people. After our truck was unloaded, this man came up to me, took both my hands in his, shook them, and then reached up and stroked the beard on my chin.

Our guide told me that what he had done was to honor me with his respect and thanks in a very traditional Afghan manner.

Last week I attended the retirement dinner of a gentleman with whom I had occasion to work with over the past few years. It was a nice event to honor his service, and celebrate the next stage of life for he and his wife.

I went not because we were close friends and colleagues, but to honor him and his service. It was something I did as much for me as for him. By that I mean that it was important for me to take the time, make the sacrifice to travel out of town to honor him. In honoring him, I supported what I believe is a missing practice in our society.

Honor is more that recognition for someone's service. It is the respect we owe to one another. It is how our relationships are intended to function in society.

Think for a moment of your office. Let the faces and names of all the people with whom you regularly interact pass before you. Imagine what the workplace would be like if each of you honored one another as your ongoing practice of relating.

Honor is the respect that lies at the heart of diplomacy.

Diplomacy is the practice of respect applied in places of diverse cultures. It is the ability of one person to be able to empathize with another person, even though their cultural, ethnic and philosophical backgrounds are not similar.

It was what made my encounter with this Afghan gentleman so influential upon my life. We had nothing in common, at all, yet we connected at a level of respect that I don't with people who are much more like me. Our diplomatic moment was an act of gratitude on his part. I was honored by his thanks, and I share his story today was a way of thanking him in abstentia for teaching me a lesson that I would have never learned in a book.

This type of respect is a form of humility that places the dignity of the other person ahead of one's own prerogatives. It is what I see missing in much of the social and civic interaction that takes place in our society. I fear this kind of diplomacy will retreat further into obscurity as we entered the 2012 political campaign season.

How I am approaching the 2012 campaign.

I am an independent, undecided, non-aligned voter.  I am neither liberal nor conservative, neither Republican nor Democrat. I am a political outlier.

I have decided that I'm going to keep a running tab in my head as to whose supporters are the nastiest, most divisive, most condescending of the campaign. I will base my vote on the candidate and his or her supporters by who shows the highest level of respect and honor to their opponents and their supporters. 

My reason for doing this is that I can no longer stand the way we practice politics.  The practice of demonizing your opponent is a practice of cowardice and dishonor. It is cowardice because it plays to the crudest, most divisive elements of our society, as if they are those who hold genuine power. They do not.

It is dishonorable because its purpose is to demean and defeat, not by intellectual reason and logical persuasion, but by the destruction of the person him or herself.

I feel so strongly about this that I have also decided to refuse to buy the books of authors, watch the movies and television shows of actors, and follow those public figures who practice divisive politics. The beauty of social media, of Twitter and Facebook in particular, is that it shows the true colors of those who practice this sort of political gamesmanship. I don't care how important your latest book is, or whether your movie has Oscar potential, if you lower yourself into the gutter of dishonorable politics, I'll delete your blog from my Google reader and your books boxed and put away in a closet. 

My point has nothing to do with the positions of your candidate or your political party. It has everything to do with civility, honor, and yes, diplomacy.

What I've learned.

To live with honor and to practice diplomacy in our daily lives is not easy. It is counter-cultural, even prophetic in its application to our world today. It means that while we may disagree with another person, we can also honor them with respect, even if their behavior is a demonstration of a lack of their own self-respect.

I understand, therefore, that as we enter this new Presidential election campaign season, that your candidate is dishonored when you treat his or her opponents and supporters with dishonor.

I understand that your reasons for not voting for your candidate's opponent are not the same as having positive reasons for voting for them.

I understand that while pollsters say that negative campaigning wins votes, that it also poisons the well of respect that is required for the diplomacy that civic leadership demands.

I understand that dishonor in any context easily finds it way into others. Consider carefully what kind of atmosphere you want in your social and organizational life. The line between politics and the rest of life and work is razor thin.

I understand that to be honorable and diplomatic does not mean you give up your values and principles. It means that you do not win by destroying the other person. You lose by dishonoring your own values.

The place of Honor in The Five Actions of Gratitude Five Actions of Gratitude - blogpix

Honor Others is the fourth action of the Five Actions of Gratitude. Without this action, the other four are not sustainable.For to live with honor in one's relationships requires the ability to recognize the value and dignity of other people, which is the basis of diplomacy.

When we find reason to Say Thanks, we are seeing a quality in that other person that is worth recognizing.

When we Give Back, we are recognizing, like my Afghan friend, the gifts that others have made to our lives.

When we Make Welcome, we are saying to those we treat hospitably that we honor you by opening up ourselves to you.

When we Create Goodness, we do so with a view to contribute, to make a difference to others, to others we honor by our acts of goodness.

I take my cue from the advice that Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, Greece two millennia ago.

On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.

This is the high standard that honor demands. It is not idealistic to believe so. It is logical and pragmatic to recognize that a team or an organization or a nation that acts in this way will be stronger, more confident, and better able to manage the constantly shifting environment that our world provides us.

To honor is to be fully human. To practice dishonor is to lose our humanity.  It is a choice we make every day. And it is a choice that we will make on November 6, 2012.


The Relationship-focused Organization

I began my post, The End and the Beginning, with this thought. Broom - 10489310_2d9ab9f952_z

What if our past experience instead of illuminating the future, obscures it? What if the way we have always approached a problem, or the conduct of a single day, or the organization of our work makes it more likely that we end up not accomplishing what we envision?

I'd like to take this as a starting point for a question that has provoked me for some time.

What if the way we organize businesses, and the work done within them, obscures our ability to see ways to change them? What if the way we are organizationally structured means that we must wait until we reach a crisis point before we are willing to change?

Broom Structure

Think of the image of a broom. A long handle for control, and lots of long pieces of straw to do the work. Lose a few straws, no problem. Break the handle, leverage is gone, and the broom quickly becomes useless. 

The problem with this metaphor of organization is that it provides no alternative for seeing how the work of the straw end of the broom can be accomplished without the long lever of a handle.

This is the problem that we have with our images of organizational structure. We see hierarchy because that is all we have ever seen. We see a boss on top, a bunch of middle managers, and the straw end of the broom, the workers down below.

We can even see a broken broom handle, a la Enron, and think, not that the system was broken, but that a few bad apples spoiled the rest in the barrel. (Sorry for mixing my metaphors.) 

We are like fish who don't know what it means to be wet. The experience of water is so all encompassing, that it can not be objectified. Remove the fish from water, and they cannot survive. In a similar way, we think if the organizational structure we have now was to go away, even if inadequate, the business counld not survive. That is how close we are to our structures.

The Relationship Initiative

I was with a group of people the other day, and they were talking about how their latest improvement efforts were focused on improving relationships and communication. I celebrate their efforts. They are on the right track. However, there are questions that come to mind.

What if how we are organized dictates how we are in our relationships?

How does one reorganize a hierarchically structured business to put relationships at a more central, integral place?

Is openness required for organizational relationships to work?

Is openness a product of the character and personality of the CEO or how the organization is structured to operate?

What if a company was organized with a focus on relationships?  How could openness as a core value be operationalized throughout the company? 

How would the business look different a year from now?Circle of Impact - Life-Work image

A Circle of Impact Assessment

When I identified the Circle of Impact model a number of years ago, my bias, frankly, was toward the relationship side of the diagram, and still is. I still see the relational dimension where the action is.  Ideas don't do things. And structure is simply the context for the action that people in relationship take to achieve the impact of their mission or purpose as an organization.

As I applied this diagram in both personal and organizational contexts, it became apparent that organizational structrure was the inhibiting factor.  It not only inhibited better relationships, but also virtually every improvement initiative that was developed.

In talking with a wide spectrum of people over the years, I saw a host of problems.  Here are some.

1. Such a lack of clarity about mission, that their organization had virtually no purpose other than the continued functioning of the organizational system.

2. A lack of accountability by the board for the executive.

3. A tendency to keep doing what they've always done because it is the only thing they knew how to do.

4. Really poor communication blamed on others because they didn't read the boring, overly vague information distributed as communication.

5. A lack of openness that gave employees permission to resolve problems as they occurred.

6. Leaders who were ill-prepare to lead, took criticism personally, and lacked the capacity to see how to change.

7. Leaders who lacked credibility with their staff because they were seen as incompetent, unethical and closed to personal accountability.

8. A lack of alignment between program and mission, between values and relationships, and between results and value to the customer.

9. A culture of fear that ran off the best employees.

10. A lack of understanding for measuring success. Success was measured by activity level and energy expended, not by the beneficial change that came to clients and customers.

I could go on.

Creating a Structure for Healthy Relationships Five Actions of Gratitude - blogpix

Healthy relationships are the long term key to creating a successful 21st century organization. But addressing the structural needs of the company is essential if relationships have a chance to grow. 

As I have used the The Five Actions of Gratitude with clients, I am coming to understand that these five actions are not a way for creating healthy relationships, but also a strategic tool for addressing the strucutural needs of an organization. 

1. Say Thanks in gratitude is an action of collaboration because it recognizes the contributions of others in open, tangible ways.

2.Give Back in service shifts the relationship center from being about me to those who have contributed to my life and work. To create a culture of service changes the dynamics of how communication and collaboration are conducted. The result is a higher level of coordination between programs and departments as people recognize that "lending a hand" makes the system run smoother.

3. Make Welcome in open hospitality provides the essential foundation needed to develop the capacities and potential of employees as leaders. This is a very important point. Openness and hospitality create a culture of trust and invitation to give, and to give as leaders. The more I reflect on this one action, the more convinced I become that this is the key structural change that must happen. If the structure is broken, then start by openning up to people to seek ideas for improvement. There is no better source of insight and inspiration for this approach than Hostmanship by Swedish authors Jan Gunnarsson and Olle Blohm.

4. Honor Others in appreciation of people is the foundation of healthy, collaborative relationships in organizations. To honor is more than recognition, though important. It is a way to see the potential and talent in a person, and through a relationship of mutual support and encouragement create an culture of personal and professional growth. 

5. Create Goodness as a calling to make a difference that matters is the foundation of a high performance organization centered in relationships. When an individual can see how their work is creates goodness, then the other four actions of gratitude taken on greater importance.

It isn't enough to want better relationships. There must be tangible changes in organizational structure and process to create a relationship focused organization. More than anything, it starts with a commitment to openness as a guide to releasing the latent potential that exists in the people and their connections to one another within an organization. The Five Actions of Gratitude provide a simple, practical way to establish the relational rapport that is needed to redesign and adapt the organization's structure to the new, more complex demands and opportunities of the 21st century.

Photo: Attribution Some rights reserved by Schnittke


Gratitude: Circle of Impact Conversation Guides

This is the last in a series of post describing the message and use of my Circle of Impact Guides.

Five Actions Gratitude

This guide developed out of a desire to identify how a person and an organization should act when gratitude is the motivation. Gratitude, I've discovered, is a response to another person's kindness.

Aristotle wrote,

Kindness is …
”helpfulness towards someone in need, not in return for anything, nor for the advantage of the helper himself, but for that of the person helped.”

I have written about this idea both here and here.

The purpose behind this guide is a belief that gratitude is not just a feeling, but a way we should live. Therefore, the Five Actions can be described in the following way.

We Say Thanks in Gratefulness.

We Give Back in Service.

We Make Welcome in Hospitality.

We Honor Others in Recognition

We Create Goodness through Personal Leadership that Makes a Difference That Matters

How To Use This Guide:

As a team, talk through each of the actions and identify specific steps that you can take to make each one a part of your team's experience.  It is important to understand that at some level each one of these actions is a gracious response to some person or situation.

For example, to Say Thanks Every Day is to recognize the kindness and generosity of others who have made a difference in your life and work. This is true even of your team who may be the beneficiaries of other teams or individuals.

One of the simplest practices is to write a note of thanks. It is better than an email, a tweet or a text message. It is a sign of effort to write a note and send it by mail.

Another example is how we practice hospitality. (I wrote about this in my review of Jan Gunnarsson and Olle Bloehm's marvelous little book, Hostmanship.) Making people Welcome is not just for when they come by for a visit. It is how new people join, and become full participants and contributors. The fewer the barriers to leadership, the higher the level of hospitality that is practiced. Hospitality is concerned with creating an open and opportunity rich environment for people. This is an action of gratitude because we are creating an environment that anticipates reasons to say thanks and offer recognition for the contributions of people.

It is in this kind of environment that people find the opportunity to Create Goodness out of their own sense of purpose or call to take initiative to make a difference.  When a person discovers and fulfills their purpose, that discover that without the assistance from others, some known and others unknown, that this fulfillment is possible. A result of this response in gratitude is that people find that their lives are Personally Meaningful, Socially Fulfilled, and the are Making a Difference that Matters.

When your team can identify how to develop your practices based on the Five Actions of Gratitude, you'll begin to see that many of the issues that formerly inhibited your work together begin to be resolved.

This is a conversation guide not a prescriptive formula. You and your team must decide what each of these actions mean in your context. The conversation will lead to a serious consideration of the importance of your relationships with one another, and how to make them work better.


Tradition and Change

The-leopard2
The resistance to change has always come from a desire to hold onto traditions that have value. Yet, in a time of dramatic, disruptive change, holding on to traditions while adapting to changing circumstances provides a way to build continuity over time. The question is how to change without losing the traditions and the historical continuity that is the seedbed of sustainability. That is a question we must all be asking.

I was thinking of this as I watched, again, Luchino Visconti's Il Gattopardo, in English The Leopard. This film is set in the context of the social and political change taking place in Italy at the time of its unification under Victor Emanuel. It is the story of a Sicilian prince, Don Fabrizio Salina, who sees the days of the artistocracy coming to an end, and understands that an accomodation with the rising democractic middle class is necessary in order to preserve his family and place in society.

What I love about this film is the richness of its depiction of social change that comes with the passage of time. In Italy, as in many places in Europe during the 19th century, aristocratic rule was being eclipsed by the modern world. Every character is a picture of the time.

The following transcription of one scene offers the personal view of the Prince of this change. The scene is his conversation with Caviliere Chevalley, an emissary from the Italian government in Turin, sent to invite him to become a Senator in the new democractic legislature.

The Prince: I am a member of the old ruling class hopelessly linked to the past regime and tied to it by chains of decency, if not affection. I belong to an unfortunate generation straddling two worlds and ill at ease in both. And what is more, I am utterly without illusions.
 

What would the Senate do with an inexperienced legislator who lacks the faculty of self-deception, essential requisite for those who guide others? No, I cannot lift a finger in politics. It would get bitten off.

Chevalley: Would you seriously refuse to do all you can to alleviate the state of physical squalor and blind moral misery in which your own people lie?

The Prince: We are old, Chevalley. Very old. For more that 25 centuries, we have borne the weight of superb civilizations that have come from outside, never of our own creation, none we could call our own. For 2,500 years, we've been nothing but a colony. I'm not complaining. It's our fault. But we are worn out and exhausted.

Chevalley: But all that's over now. Sicily is no longer a conquered land, but a free member of a free state.

The Prince: Your intention is good, but it comes too late.

Sleep, my dear Chevalley, a long sleep - that is what Sicilians want. They will always hate anyone who tries to wake them, even to bring them the most wonderful gifts. And between ourselves, I doubt whether the new kingdom will have many gifts for us in its luggage. Here, all expression, even the most violent, is a desire for oblivion. Our sensuality is a longing for oblivion. Our knifings and shootings are a longing for death. Our laziness, the penetrating sweetness of our sherbets, a longing for voluptuous immobility, that is ... death once again.

Chevalley: Prince, are you exaggerating? I myself have met Sicilians in Turin who seemed anything but asleep.

The Prince: I haven't explained myself well. I'm sorry. I said Sicilians. I should have said Sicily. This atmosphere, the violence of the landscape, the cruelty of the climate, the constant tension in everything -

Chevalley: Climate can be overcome, landscape improved, the memory of evil governments canceled. Surely the Sicilians want to improved.

The Prince: I don't deny that a few, once off the island, may wake up, but they must leave very young. By 20, it's too late. The crust has already formed. What you need, Chevalley, is a man who is good at blending his personal interests with vague public ideals.

May I offer some advice for your superiors?

Chevalley: With pleasure.

The Prince: There is a name I'd like to suggest for the Senate.That of ... Calogeno Sedara. He has far more qualities than I that merit election. His family, I am told is an old one, or soon will be. He has more power than what you call prestige. He has power. In lieu of scientific merits, he has practical ones, and quite outstanding too. His work was most useful during the May crisis. As for illusions, I don't think he has any more than I, but he's clever enough to create them when needed. He's the man for you.

Chevalley: Yes, I have heard talk of Sedara. But if honest men like you withdraw, the way will be open for those with no scruples and no vision, for Sedara and his like, and everything will be as before for centuries to come.  Listen to your conscience and not to proud truths you've spoken. I beg you, try to collaborate.

The Prince: You are a gentleman, Chevalley. I consider it a privilege to have met you. You are right about everything ... except when you say, 'Surely the Sicilians want to improve.'  They never want to improve. They think themselves perfect. Their vanity is greater than their misery.

Sit down. Let me tell you an anecdote.

Shortly before Garibaldi entered Palermo, some British officers from the warship in the harbor asked if they could go up onto the terrace of my house, from where one can see the hills around the city. They were ecstatic about the view, but they confessed they were shocked at the squalor and filth of the street. I didn't explain as I have tried with you, that the one derived from the other. One of the officers asked, 'What are those Garibaldini really coming to do in Sicily?' I replied, 'They are coming to teach us good manners, but they won't succeed, because we are gods.' They laughed, but I don't think they understood.

It's late. Almost time for dinner. We must go change.

Packed into this 15 minute scene are ideas and images of change that were relevant to the aristocracy and rising middle class elite of 19th century Italy. These ideas and images are equally relevant to us today.

Traditions are not the same as "the old ways."

Traditions are values that serve to defined the values and boundaries of a culture or society. They can be stories, myths, that illustrate why we believe in one idea or value or another.

The past two centuries has been an attack on the notion that tradition has value and relevance in the modern world. In Chevalley, you hear the modern world, as this man expresses his confidence that the world's squalor and filth can be cleaned up. This is the perspective of the 19th century Progressive who saw the world as inherently changeable by their own hands.

If Don Fabrizio's Sicilians thought of themselves as gods unreachable and without need for Progressive contributions, the Progressives of that century equally failed to see what they could not see, that in their beneficent arrogance, the 20th century would become an era of World Wars and leadership without scruples and no vision.

We are at another turning point in human history. Just as revolution swept through England to America, through France, Germany, Italy and then Russia, bringing with it radical, disruptive change, so too we are at another turning point. The historic trend of change that brought about the decline of the old aristocracy, replaced by the leadership of the bourgeoisie, now threatens a new aristotcracy, one born in the revolutions of the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries.

The old ways of the past hundred years are worn and exhausted. What is it that will replace it? Will it come by revolution or evolution?

As I look forward, the themes that emerge are ones related to values and tradition.

Every where I turn I find people interested, concerned, engaged in conversation about trust. It is something we all desire.

In trust, I see a type of innocence that has been missing from our world for a long time.

It was this sort of innocent belief in a person that catapulted Barack Obama into the Presidency. And yet, now, it appears that for many people that innocent trust is gone replaced by disappointment and doubt.

Remember what Don Fabrizio said about himself?

"I am a member of the old ruling class hopelessly linked to the past regime and tied to it by chains of decency, if not affection. I belong to an unfortunate generation straddling two worlds and ill at ease in both. And what is more, I am utterly without illusions."

Can we not say for ourselves that we are a people raised in an era tied to the dreams and failures of the ruling class of the modern era, the era of Chevalley, and are tied to it by habit and comfort in those old ways?

Can we not also say that we are people who straddle two worlds, and are ill at ease in both? For the one is dying, and the other emerging, and comfort and security are lacking in both.

Can we not also say that we are people with illusions, and that this is a dilemma of our own creation?

What then to we do?

Begin by riding ourselves of our illusions, and thinking clearly about the time we are in. This means that we each are to take responsibility for ourselves, our families and our communities.

We, with great intention and discipline, become people who are trustworthy. We can't ask others to be trustworthy if we are not.

Restore traditions in your homes, businesses and communities. If you were to take the Five Actions of Gratitude, and treat them as traditions, you will find strength to deal with change. Consider for a moment adopting for yourself personally the following traditions of gratitude.

Say Thanks by writing notes to people who have done something worth your gratitude.

Give Bank in service as an organization to those in need in your community.

Make Welcome with a program of hospitality to those who are new comers to your community.

Honor Others by recognizing their gifts of service and hospitality.

Create Goodness by being a person who is trustworthy in all your dealings with people.

To creatively practice these actions of gratitude is allow traditions to be born that build trust and the ability to find continuity from one era to the next.

As I watched The Leopard again, I could not help but think that it should be watched along with Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather series. Together they are a picture of the historical continuity that our modern world has experienced.  In ten years, what film will we refer to as representative of this time? I don't know.

Without illusion, let us approach the future by creating trust and traditions that provide people an environment of support for adapting to the changes that are with us.

It's late. ... We must go change.

I continue my comments in part two of Tradition and Change


7 Virtues of the 21st Century Organization

7VIRTUES image

My current Weekly Leader series is on the 7 Virtues of the 21st Century Organization. Check here, here and here

The 7 Virtues are a system of values that can be used to improve the functioning of an organization.

7 Virtues 21stOrg

In this post, I look at the 7 Virtues through the lens of the Circle of Impact Leadership Guides. The Circle of Impact is built around two sets of ideas. The first is that all leaders must address themselves to the Three Dimensions of Leadership: Ideas, Relationships and Structure. The key is to align the three so that they work together. The way this alignment is achieved is by being absolutely clear about the Four Connecting Ideas: Values, Purpose, Vision, and Impact. The key here is that every facet of the organization is focused on Impact, which is defined as change or a difference that matters.

Impact as change or the difference that matters is a very general definition. This means that each organization, and each division within it must define for their own purposes what impact means. As a function of leadership, this requires each person within the organization to be able to state the impact that they seek to create by their work within the system. This is how leadership becomes a shared responsibility, and not simply a positional one.

Circle of Impact- simple

The 7 Virtues

 1. Collaboratively-led:

This idea encompasses the other six virtues into a singular perspective that defines what it means to be collaborative. It means that a collaborative leader will focus on aligning the three dimensions and the four connecting ideas so that the people who are a part of the social and organization structures may have relationships that enable them to fulfill their shared vision for impact. This is what a collaborative leader does.

2. Decentralized, local control:

This function of the structure of the organization, created by policy governance and design, establishes a system of communication and accountability, built around collaboration.

3. Long tail internal operational structures:

This is a function of the alignment of structure with relationships. This means that the people who are bound to one another by a clear purpose and set of values have the freedom and may take the initiative to organize how they work together.

4. Purpose-driven organic adaptability:

This is also a function of the alignment of structure and relationships. In this context, the group or team adapts freely and with great agility to changing circumstances in order to keep their purpose foremost in their relationships.

5. Relational-asset based:

It may seem that this is a function of the relationships, and at one level it is, but the importance to treating the group or company's network of relationships as a relational asset is that these connections bring value that does not exist when the people of an organization are viewed as human resources. Relational resources are the assets to come from having a large, diverse, and widely dispersed network of relationships that feed information, insight, talent and business to the organization. From a structural point of view this is a fourth classification of resources, along side the financial, material, and human. The higher level of collaboration that takes place through these relational assets, the great value they bring to the company. These assets are what are commonly understood as social capital.

6. Values that are operational:

This a function of the alignment of the Ideas and Relationships dimensions with the Structural. Values, which inform an organization's purpose, is the core strength of a business. It is the only thing that is unchangeable. An organization's purpose can change as circumstances change. The structure can change to remained aligned with a vision that is constantly adapting to the current context of business. But the values of a company remain constant, though not necessarily acknowledged or practiced. This virtue, therefore, focuses on applying the company's values operationally. This done by asking the question how are our values represented in this decision or this policy? The greater alignment between values and practice, the greater the integrity, confidence and impact from the collaborative work of the people of the company.

7. Ownership culture of giving:

This virtue is a function of the whole community of the company.  It is the responsibility of the company's leadership to foster a culture of giving. The aim is to encourage people create a culture of giving through their own initiative and expression of gratitude. This is the kind of culture that is represented in the Five Actions of Gratitude (Say Thanks Every Day).

The complaint that I've heard over the years about a more relationally oriented business structure is that these are soft skills, not the hard skills of finance. True they aren't the same, but they are also not contradictory either. Create a culture of the 7 Virtues, and you'll see not only a transformed workforce, but a transformed business environment. If you do it sooner than later, you'll be ahead of the curve, and be recognized for leading rather than following.


Real Life Leadership: Showing Gratitude should be a Daily Practice

After a two month hiatus, my Real Life Leadership column is back and online.  This weeks' column - Showing gratitude should be a daily practice - is a message to people who have lost jobs during the recession. The most recent statistics show that unemployment is at 13.2 million people or 8.5% of the non-farm workforce.

I know a number of people who have lost their jobs. Each has taken the change as an opportunity to venture in new directions. Their ability to do this is partly do to an attitude of gratitude.

We each have a choice about how we handle adversity. We can feel self-pity, and become paralyzed from taking the actions we need to make,or we can pick ourselves off and get back in the game.

Precisely, what is an attitude of gratitude. Here are a few ways of understanding what I'm driving at.

1. Gratitude is appreciation for what you have, even if it is just a little.
My friend Meridith Elliott Powell told me about her trip to South Africa. She and her friend were doing mission work in one of the poorer districts of the country. She came home transformed by the people she met. As she recounted it to me, these people had nothing, yet they were happy, gracious people. She concluded that they had learned to appreciate whatever they had right now. They lived in the present, because the future didn't hold much hope for them. Appreciation for what we have helps to see that all that we have is a gift.

2. Gratitude is appreciation for people who matter to us. Recently, I realized the impact that my parents had had on me. Once when I was young, I took a pack of gum from the drug store. My father saw me chewing the gum in the back seat of our car as we drove home. Instead of flying off the handle, he turned the car around and took me to see the store manager. Any temptation toward shoplifting was squelched by my father's wise act. Several years later as a mischievious junior high school kid, a couple of friends and I were tossing firecrackers off a hill into the parking lot of a shopping center. My mistake we set the field where we were on fire, burning up a number of talk pine trees that bordered the parking of the center. We told the management of the grocery store, and then fled each to our homes. My mother's kind understanding of my embarassment, and recognition that I had learned a lesson show me what the nature of forgiveness and redemption truly means. Ironically, today, there is a fire station at the location of our brief pyromania career.  The wisdom of parents didn't hit me until I remembered these two incidents. I'm grateful for their kind treatment of their rebellious son.

3. Gratitude is appreciation for the opportunities in the past and the future.  When we lose our job, we are thrust into a situation of fear and ambiguity. We don't know what to do right away. So, we feel wronged, angry and victimized. It is important that we get over it as quickly as possible. Losing one's job may be the best gift one could receive. Being forced to look for a new job may just the impetus to start your own business or begin a whole new journey in your career. Appreciate the opportunities you have everyday, and make the most of them. Think that nothing is for certain or last forever, and remain open to new opportunities that come.

What do you appreciate? What are you grateful for? Sharing in the comments, or better join a group of us over at a social network site focused on the expression of gratitude called Say Thanks Every Day.


BlogTalkRadio Interview 11amEDT 3/18/09

I'll be interviewed by Wendy Siegel of BlogTalkRadio today at 11:00 EDT/US. The interview will go 45 minutes.

I'll be talking about the Johnny Bunko contest ,my lesson Say Thanks Every Day, and on how the Four Questions that Every Leader Must Ask can be applied by leaders in their businesses and communities. 

You can connect at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/webwendy/2009/03/18/Tribe-Talk-with-Ed-Brenegar .